Hellllllooooo!


It’s 2020! And like, FEBRUARY, in 2020! It’s been an odd winter (no snow, bitter temperatures followed by 70 degree days), but here we are! I’m still reading away when I can and have oodles of reviews for you! Want to stay up to date on my book reviews (and everything else that’s photo-worthy) in my life? Follow me on Instagram @theloudlibrarian. And now, onwards!

–Marissa

Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden follows the trials and tribulations of a downtrodden Texas high school and a handful of the teachers therein, but set amidst a new administration, new testing standards, new tee shirts, and new phrases to put on the blackboard every.single.day. It feels absurd, but that’s what makes this satire work – you KNOW there are nuggets of truth in there. For anyone who has every taught high school, you’ll find a lot to laugh about in this one!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is a meaty book that covers a lot of ground – and definitely had some twists and an ending I did NOT see coming. Oak Knoll is a tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, so when a “nouveau riche” family moves in and builds a McMansion (and threatens an old oak tree), things get off on the wrong foot quickly… especially when you throw in a romance between the (Caucasian) daughter of the new family and the (biracial) son of their nearest neighbor. This novel explores race, class, appearance, threats, love and loss in a big, huge sweeping way and I was here for it.

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield was so much fun! Full disclaimer: I’m a complete nerd for anything set in Henry VIII’s court, so when I heard this was a “modern day retelling”, I was IN! Harry Rose is a media mogul, rogue, dashing gent, and husband with six consecutive wives… you get the gist. 😉 I thought this was clever and modern, glamorous and deceitful, dishy and well researched. I was *dying* to see how the author would handle “married beheaded died married beheaded survived”, and she did!

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones gave me kinda mixed feelings about this buzzy “next Gone Girls/Girl on the Train” novel. Leslie arrives a few hours too late to see her sister alive – and able to help her receive a desperately-needed joint inheritance from their father. Instead, she bargains with a virtual stranger to impersonate her sister and split the cash – and you know it’s gonna end badly. 🙂 I *liked* this novel, but I didn’t tear through it like some other suspense novels out there (plus, that cover does nothing for it)!

A Good Man by Ani Katz was hella weird… but in a compulsively readable way. This dark psychological thriller is slim in pages, but full of twists as lead character Thomas unravels from his perfect family, home, and life in one unspeakable act after another (coupled with his weird sisters and mother, his job going sideways, and the occasional psychotic break, etc). I don’t want to give anything away, but if you want a dark, weird, gritty, short novel, this is one to try.

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald turned out not at all as I expected! Well-comparisoned to “The Incident of the Dark in the Night Time”, this is a book about Zelda, a young adult who is high functioning after being born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Zelda lives with her older brother Gert and aspires to be a Viking in all ways. Mostly a coming of age story (with a hopeful ending!), I thought this would be sweet and clean, but instead features strong language, a lot of discussions of sex, violence, drug use and (trigger warning) an attempted rape. I really loved the relationships between all the characters though – just not what I expected!

Inside Out by Demi Moore was an afternoon read for me, chronicling her childhood, Hollywood life, marriages, loves, losses and everything in between – an interesting read about an actress I feel like I grew up with (shout out to St. Elmo’s Fire!). An easy, dishy read…

You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley was such a sweet romance novel, but not in a twee way, just in a lovely way. 🙂 Mia and Harrison have relocated to a small Pennsylvania town and are trying to settle into their next chapter when Mia runs into a stranger – a man she’s been literally dreaming about for years. Chance and fate, marriage and freedom, dreams versus reality… this one has it all, and I really loved it!

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman (who wrote 2018’s great Something in the Water) is another page-turning suspense novel that kept me reading every spare minute! This novel has dual mysteries – who is “Mr. Nobody” that has washed up on a British beach with no memory, and what lurks in the past of his doctor Emma – and are they connected in some way? I will say… this one dropped the ball on the one yard line for me (the climax not being as satisfying as I hoped) but was definitely full of action and drama. This one definitely pulled me along!

Ice Cold Heart by PJ Tracy is the latest in the “Monkeewrench” series, which I’ve read and loved since the titular novel came out in 2003. We still have our same cast of characters (the Monkeewrench gang and detectives Leo and Gino) in chilly Minnesota, and though the technology and murder-of-the-month has changed, the quest to solve crimes and be digital “white hats” remains the same. Satisfying for fans of the series!

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness – bless. 🙂 I love a good one-day read, and this memoir from JVN is just that, but don’t get the idea it’s all fluffy kitten and rainbows – it’s not. JVN talks about growing up in the midwest (amidst bullying and the pressure to conform), his path through drugs, addiction, unsafe sexual choices, career and school struggles, and ultimately, his HIV diagnosis and rebirth through Queer Eye and crafting his media career. His *voice* comes through loud and clear, and while there is a lot of humor, cracks, and one-liners, this is ultimately a really arced memoir with definite highs and lows – but a happy ending.

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White was a great ‘palate cleanser’ of a read: fast, absorbing, atmospheric, and with a juicy twist! This novel is told from two perspectives: Kate, who has just discovered her husband has been murdered on the island where their vacation home lies, and Abby, an island local dealing with her husband’s suspicious behavior. I don’t wanna say any more that that! I couldn’t put this one down, and definitely didn’t see that ending coming. Recommended!

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener got tons of pre-release buzz, so I’m gonna be unpopular when I say… I didn’t really get into it. :-/ Aspects of her take on the tech industry in SF were interesting, but I couldn’t fully embrace the economics of start ups, the “bro attitude” of the companies, or the fact that Wiener seems like a dispassionate, kinda dry narrator. I guess I wanted more an an arc, more of a spark… *shrugs*

I also read All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenburg (I was underwhelmed)… The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley (Charlotte Lucas! The aftermath!)… From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg (because I *never* read it as a kid)…and Harry Potter (because, Harry Potter)…

2019 Reading Roundup


And that’s a wrap on 2019! here’s my year in reading, and time to shout out some of my favorite titles read this last year, so here goes!

–Marissa

Number of books read in 2019: 115 titles
Number of books read in 2018 (for comparison): 128 titles
Average of books read per month: 9.5 books
Average of books read per week: 2.2 books
Daily average: 1 book read every 3.2 days
Percent of fiction read: 69%
Percent of nonfiction read: 31%
Number of books read on the Kindle: 77 (66%)

And now, for the best books of the year (in my humble opinion, of course!), in author alphabetical order… my benchmark is always… “did this book stick with me? Do I still remember the characters or plot? Did I think about it after I closed the cover?”…

Brodeur, Adrienne. Wild Game. NF.

Dicks, Matthew. Twenty-One Truths About Love. F, K.

Harper, Jane. The Lost Man. F, K.

Hepworth, Sally. The Mother-In-Law. F, K.

Moore, Liz. Long Bright River. F, K.

Patchett, Ann. The Dutch House. F.

Philpott, Mary Laura. I Miss You When I Blink. NF, K.

Reid, Kiley. Such a Fun Age. F, K.

Reid, Taylor Jenkins. Daisy Jones and The Six. F.

Rosenstrach, Jenny. Dinner: A Love Story. NF.

Shapiro, Dani. Inheritance. NF.

Silver, Josie. One Day in December. F.

Taddeo, Lisa. Three Women. NF.

Waxman, Abbi. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. F, K.

Zgheib, Yara. The Girls of 17 Swann Street. F, K.

What were your favorite reads this year that I should add to my TBR list?

 

Coming to the End…


…of the year, and it’s almost time for my annual review of books, but first, a few I’ve been ploughing through before 2019 comes to a close! I’ve also committed (trying!) to reviewing all the titles I read on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there as well @theloudlibrarian. In any case, here we go!

–Marissa

Love Her or Lose Her by Tess Bailey is the upcoming title from Tessa Bailey (due out 1/15/20) and this romance title is SPICY! Rosie and Dominic have been married for years but live like strangers… except for their Tuesday night mega-steamy-sex-night. When Rosie wants more and walks out on their marriage, will they be able to salvage their relationship or will it come crashing down? Loved this title, but this is not a title for readers who prefer “fade to black” sex scenes! Wowza!

Meet Me on Love Lane by Nina Bocci was a perfect vacation read for me – easy to dive into on the plane for a few hours! Charlotte has moved home to her small town of Hope Lake from NYC to figure things out, and ends up charmed by the town, her new job, her old friends, and two dashing men… one new, one from her past. An easy romance!

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne is the first in her new Devil You Know series, and once again, Byrne has written a historical (post-Regency, pre-Victorian?) romance full of damaged, complex characters, wit and romance, and of course, a happy ending but it’s a tough road getting there. I really, really love Byrne’s take on this genre, dealing with modern issues (trigger warning for sexual abuse) but within a historical setting.

Good Girls Lie by JT Ellison was a vacation read for me, and eagerly tore through it on the plane ride home to see how it would all unfold! This ticks all the boxes – a girls’ boarding school, the obligatory bad behavior, and of course… murder… or is it murders?! Fulls of twists and turns, I didn’t see the ending of this one coming – definitely a readalike if you like writers like Mary Kubica, Paula Hawkins or Peter Swanson.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore (due out January 7) has been getting lots of pre-release buzz, and rightfully so – I zipped right through it and was pulled in straightaway. Mickey is a Philadelphia cop who spends her beat patrolling – and searching for her drug-addicted sister, Kacey. When a string of murders rock her neighborhood and Kacey goes missing, Mickey goes into overdrive and no one is above suspicion. I really loved this police procedural/family drama/mystery novel and was pulled right in by the prose, the story, and the characters. Highly recommended – you’ll be seeing this one a lot!

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is due out December 31, and has already been *everywhere*. This complex story is about race and privilege, and full of vulnerable, cringy, and laugh out loud moments – this is a tough one to categorize! Emira is the (black) babysitter for (white) parents Alix and Peter and caregiver for truly cutest-kid-in-a-book-ever Briar. One night, a racially motivated incident occurs when Emira and Briar are out, and from there, the book races along, tackling white privilege, caregiver relationships with families, past lives coming back to haunt the characters, and that “what do I wanna be when I grow up” feeling. I tore through this one, and can’t WAIT to see what other reviewers say about this one!

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco is a non-fiction memoir that is timely as part of the #MeToo movement (trigger warning for rape). When Jeannie was in high school, she was sexually assaulted by a close friend. Years later and haunted by the memory of it, she actually reaches out to her perpetrator to get his side of the story and to try and find some closure. Both imminently readable and hard to get through, this is a unique view of sexual assault, told from both sides – cathartic, provocative, and interesting, despite the subject matter. A tough by worthy read…

Frankly in Love by David Yoon is a young adult novel (and written by the husband of Nicola Yoon, whose books I love!). Frank Li is the son of Korean immigrants, but totally rooted in American culture and life, except for “Gathering” nights with other Korean families. When Frank falls for an American girl, he hides it from his parents by masquerading as dating Joy, a fellow first-generation Korean immigrant with an American boyfriend of her own. As a first-generation immigrant, this resonated with me on SO many levels in terms of how to maintain culture in a new country, while also being warm, funny, emotional, and full of teenage love and angst. Recommended!

Late Autumn Books…


How is it already December?! This autumn has flown by, and I’m definitely behind on my annual reading compared to past years, but still I soldier on! Here’s what I’ve read lately…

–Marissa

Dance Me to the End by Alison Acheson is a memoir Alison wrote before, during and after her husband Marty was diagnosed with ALS at age 57. It reads like a series of snapshots throughout the progression of the disease, and Alison’s caregiving for Marty as he progresses quickly through the disease. Raw, honest, and heartbreaking.

No Judgments by Meg Cabot was just such a fun romp of a romance novel! Bree recently moved to the Florida Keys to get away from her past, and as settled into small town life… until a very real hurricane threatens her town. Filled with quirky characters, romance, and lots of dogs – a winning combination!

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis is a great London-winter-meetcute-Notting Hill-romance novel, and I was here for it. 🙂 Four roommates are living in a Notting Hill home, and the only real house rule is “no hooking up with roommates”… so guess what happens. Fluffy and fun!

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now by Christopher Ingraham was a great fish-out-of-water memoir, with a totally Midwestern twist! After writing an article in the Washington Post about the worst county in America – Red Lake County, Minnesota – Ingraham, through a series of decisions and fates, moves there with his family. He thus details the people he encounters, the winters, the challenges and joys, and how knowing your neighbors and wide open spaces can make all the difference in life. This felt like a love letter to the Midwest, my home. 🙂

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay is his first follow-up after the success of the Dexter“series, this time starring master thief Riley Wolfe. Wolfe has his eyes on the prize – prized Iranian jewels – and must play a loooong game to try and steal them. This was absolutely a set up for a new series, but it was enjoyable and twisty – I liked it!

How to Be a Family by Dan Kois was another “take the family out of the norm” memoir, but instead of moving just once, the Kois family lived in New Zealand, Holland, Costa Rica, and Kansas for three months each during the course of a year. He and his wife and two children left the “rat race” of DC to try and reconnect with themselves, their family dynamic, and to learn how other live, raise their kids, and find their happiness. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses (which I appreciated!), but was very thought-provoking and fun to follow along with the family.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was definitely a favorite read of 2019 – her writing is just so luminous and transportive, even if her books are hard to summarize! Two siblings grow up in “the Dutch House” their father purchased after World War II, but are exiled by a stepmother years later. This novel travels with the brother and sister through fifty years of life, memories, discoveries and always… a yearning to go home. Part fairy tale, part family tale, I devoured this.

Mobituaries by Mo Rocca is just a great nonfiction book to dip in and out of as he talks about the lives of the famous – and not so famous – after their death. Think everyone from Audrey Hepburn and Alexander Hamilton to the “worst presidents we’ve ever had”. Fun, easy to read, but also super informative!

I also read What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr (so disappointing – I normally love her books!)… The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg (pleasant, but unmemorable)… Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (my first Christie ever read!)… Heartburn by Nora Ephron (I’ve never read this either!)… The Wives by Tarryn Fisher (enjoyable, but didn’t stick with me)… and The Furies by Katie Lowe (ultimately super disappointing).

Falling Into Fiction (and More!)…


And here it is, October (my favorite)!

It’s been a busy few weeks (honeymoon! work! life!), but I have been diligently reading as much as I can squeeze in, and here’s what’s crossed my nightstand lately…

–Marissa

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo has been one of the mostly hotly anticipated releases this fall! Bardugo’s first adult fiction work takes place at Yale… but at a Yale with ghosts, sacrifices, magic and dark deeds. The world building on this one was great, and though fantasy isn’t my favorite, I appreciated this one – though it was LENGTHY. If you loved Bardugo’s YA novels, I’m sure you’ll love this!

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur has been one of my favorite reads this fall, but Brodeur just has such a way with words and with telling a story – albeit a true one. The subtitle “My Mother, Her Lover, and Me” is a bit misleading, but is actually accurate. I don’t want to give too much away, except to say I really, really loved this memoir about love, coming of age, relationships with mothers and daughters, infidelity, wealth and want. Highly, highly recommended!

Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs was a fun, one-day read for me. I already love Burroughs, but his latest really hooked me – it’s all about how, his whole life, he has identified as a witch. His mom, his grandmother… they all had mystical abilities, but Burroughs gives lots of examples of how a touch of magic has changed the course of his life time and again. Witty, wry, heartfelt, and fun – I really enjoyed this!

Clear My Name by Paula Daly was a fast, satisfying suspense novel about a woman who is in prison and declares her innocence throughout the process… and then finally gets her case picked up by the Innocence Project UK. The investigator into the case get pulled and pulled into the case, but all is not as it seems. I’ve really enjoyed Daly’s last couple of suspense novels!

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks was just such a fun, satisfying novel. I love a novel that pushes the boundaries of storytelling, and this one is told entirely in LISTS – and yet, it works! It’s funny, warm, tender, heartbreaking and witty, and I just devoured it while I was on vacation!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert was a refreshing romance read, since it features a main character who is a woman of color, plus size, and with medical issues that aren’t often featured in stories… and yet this romance oozed sexy, hot scenes, and a sweet romance. I liked it!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is a sort-of sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and tells the story of Cilka, primarily her experiences after the war, when she is taken from Auschwitz to a gulag in Siberia for war crimes. This novel tells the story of how she survived, who she met (and helped) along the way, and what life was like after she finally gained her freedom. Worthwhile, for sure…

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Septys is not something I would have picked up on my own, but based on my love of Salt to the Sea, I had to read it! This novel takes place in Spain, 1957 when the country was still under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. The main characters are a young woman who lived through the Spanish Civil War and an young American who comes to stay in the hotel where she works. I learned a lot from this novel, but I definitely prefer Salt to the Sea. 🙂

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson was delightfully weird. 🙂 A down-on-her-luck girl gets a call from her former roommate, asking her to come watch her stepchildren for a few weeks while they get reacclimated to their home…. except the roommate is now filthy rich and married to a politician… and the children occasionally catch on fire. 😀 Quirky yet warm, I really tore through this easy novel!

I also read A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (I’ve never read the Kinsey Millhone series!)… The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (fun!)…Slow by Brooke McAlary (wise advice!)… Fair Play by Eve Rodsky (lots of food for thought in this one!)… and back-to-back reads of The Art of Making Memories and The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (such cozy reads)!